Last Thursday I tweeted the following: “Very excited. @jminchew just booked us a table @TheDaffodil for tomorrow night. Wanted to go there for ages! #Ihavealovelyboyfriend.” The Daffodil then got in touch, checked what time our reservation was and promised there’d be a treat when we got there. Much as we endeavour to keep the romance alive (having both been married before we’d be crazy not to), life can sometimes get in the way a bit, particularly when you’re juggling multiple careers and joint custody of children, so it was nice to dress up. I spent a short era turning myself from the argumentative bint that gets bogged down with concerns about back of fridge hygiene back to the irreverent, entertaining ginger fox the boyfriend fell in love with. He wore cufflinks.
We were shown to the bar where we began perusing cocktail menus only to find drinks arriving a few moments later. Summer Tweets courtesy of the house. Now I’m no stranger to a free drink. I was after all (a lifetime ago) a KL partygirl once and in Gloucester have bet against barmen for drinks at Fosters on the Docks and enjoyed a Foursquare check-in freebie at the Old Bell but these were different. Free drinks tend to be small or watered down or stock that isn’t shifting but these were unctuous concoctions of vodka and passion fruit that tasted like summer in a glass. Following that was a truly outstanding meal with my starter of scallops served with belly pork and pea puree being the best starter I have ever eaten. And I don’t even like scallops. Yes I’m weird for ordering things I don’t like in a strangely perverse challenge to be proven incorrect but it’s lovely when you win the game!
The service was great but a little nervy. I felt as though our waiter had been warned that a crazed food critic was going to be running a commentary throughout the evening that would be used as an appraisal. Ok so yes, you can do that with twitter but I was on a date. Obviously we checked in and I took a photo of my free drink but once we were seated at our table we entered a strict no phone zone.
Quite the opposite situation was Monday where I drove up to Birmingham to attend Measuring the Immeasurable, the Digital Participation seminar hosted by Birmingham City University. There smartphones abounded as the participants kept both the world and each other updated of developments and findings via hashtag (#MDP10). It was a fantastic event with a really interesting talk by Alison Preston, a senior research associate at Ofcom who provided an overview of the ways Ofcom has attempted to measure digital participation. Her key areas of reach, breadth of engagement and depth of engagement were then the subject of the afternoon’s workshop groups.
I attended the workshop on Depth, run by Jennifer Jones. There we explored the use of social networks and content creation and sharing. Some great ideas came out, including my favourite that we should stop seeing social media as a place and start seeing it as a utility, to push its adoption through inclusion. If that sounds a bit jargon laden then think back to the telephone and how it evolved from an item used by few and visited in hallways to being the mobile we always have on us. By integrating into our lives, we will begin to use social media like we do our phones, blending seamlessly into our lives rather than something to log into. Of course lots of us are already doing that, the discussion here was about the current have-nots compared to the have’s of digital life.
From a professional stance, all this was gravy and I got a lot out of my time with Alison Smith of Pesky People regarding accessibility of websites. But from a personal stance I was left wondering. I visit a forum that suffers from being necessarily open to all and this includes any moron with connection to the net. I can humour those that voted Labour in the election but experience what the boyfriend refers to as his stabbing hand itching when presented with idiocy and bad grammar. I have memories of the internet when it was old and slow and far far quieter. There was a higher calibre of user back then and I wasn’t faced with the decision of whether or not to cut someone from my life on the basis of their incessant Facebook updating of their progress in Farmville. It’s easier to tolerate some people when you only interact sporadically. When faced with continual contact (albeit online), you realise that actually you rather wish that their little lost ponies were real just so that you could go and kick them in the head. And remember, these are people I class as friends. I shudder to think that the government wishes to encourage more of the underclasses online. Where will the jumped-up, argumentative, egotistical, intellectual bohemians go to feel smug if we lose the internet to some absurd socialist agenda?
Still, while this pocket of the net is all my own, I live in the real world. And quite happily too, I hasten to add. So I’m writing up my notes from Monday’s conference and will be making a report on how we can test and measure the impact of social media. I’m quite excited as it’s the first thing of it’s kind I’ve worked on from the angle of being a practitioner rather than an academic.
I’ll be linking it on twitter when it’s done. So follow me...